Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Transfers Acclaimed Conservation Land
AUSTIN – Over 15,000 acres of the Powderhorn Ranch along the Texas coast in Calhoun County, prime unspoiled coastal prairie, is now a state wildlife management area. The newest crown jewel in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) system is the result of a unique conservation land acquisition coalition led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF).
The just-completed transfer of the property to the department is the culmination of a multi-year, $37.7 million land acquisition deal. Safeguarding this natural treasure has been contemplated for more than 30 years by several conservation organizations and wildlife agencies including The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and TPWD.
These organizations played a critical role in the acquisition and long-term conservation of this property. TPWF spearheaded the fundraising for the $50 million project, which includes the purchase of the property, habitat restoration and management, as well as a long-term endowment.
A significant portion of the funding for the project has been provided by NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NFWF has provided $34.5 million for the project, making this the biggest land acquisition in the nation so far using BP spill restoration dollars.
“The department is privileged to be the steward of this unique and ecologically significant piece of the Texas Coast that the conservation community has worked so hard to protect,” said Clayton Wolf, TPWD Wildlife Division Director. “We look forward to managing these valuable natural resources for current and future generations of Texans to enjoy.”
Management activities on the Powderhorn WMA are already under way with the first public deer hunt scheduled this week. Although public access to the property will be limited as operations and infrastructure gear up, the area is anticipating offering opportunities for low impact activities like guided group birding tours as early as spring 2019.
“Our primary management objectives right now focus on the restoration of native grassland and savannah, and for improving existing hydrology to enhance freshwater wetlands habitat for wildlife, particularly whooping cranes that have expanded onto the property,” said Dan Walker, area manager at Powderhorn WMA. “We’ve already made progress toward returning the land to grassland prairie, clearing dense brush on about 4,000 acres. This restoration effort will be very valuable for research and as a demonstration area for landowners in coastal counties from Matagorda to Willacy.”
The remaining acreage at Powderhorn Ranch is earmarked as the future site of a state park. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation will complete additional infrastructure and habitat improvement projects for the transfer to the State Parks division within the next five years.
The larger acreage transfer marks a major milestone in the multimillion-dollar project. TPWF has now completed several of the goals it set out as part of this collaboration with multiple conservation partners, including completing initial work to restore thousands of acres of native coastal prairie, raising an endowment for continued habitat management, and placing a conservation easement on the property.
“With the transfer to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of approximately 15,000 acres of Powderhorn Ranch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is fulfilling a promise to our partners and to the people of Texas to restore, conserve and provide recreational access to one of the largest remaining tracts of undisturbed native habitat on the Texas coast,” said TPWF Executive Director Anne Brown.
***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.